Fayette County

Jail employee sues Fayette government

A Lexington-Fayette jail employee says she is being retaliated against because she brought concerns about a courts employee with a criminal record to the attention of police and prosecutors.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday against Lexington's Urban County Government in Fayette Circuit Court, Doris Zirbes states she was placed on administrative leave earlier this week and is the subject of a jail internal affairs investigation.

She states that jail officials violated the whistle blower statute because the discipline against her is retaliation for informing police and prosecutors that a state Administrative Office of the Courts pre-trial officer, who works in the same part of the jail as Zirbes, has a lengthy criminal record and regularly has access to law enforcement databases.

Zirbes' lawsuit states that Francis Baker, who has multiple convictions dating to 1981 and was on parole as recently as August, improperly has access to the FBI's National Crime Information Center and the Law Enforcement Information Network of Kentucky databases. The information is used to research criminal records of inmates and make decisions about setting bonds.

AOC spokeswoman Leigh Anne Hiatt confirmed that Baker is an employee and said he is in good standing. However, she disputed the lawsuit's assertion that Baker has improper access to databases and said he does not touch NCIC/LINK because of his record. He uses other databases for his job, Hiatt said.

Zirbes said she was disciplined for going outside the jail and disclosing jail policy to outside agencies. In 2007, she was also disciplined for going outside her chain of command to communicate with a federal agency.

A spokesman for the Fayette jail declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson said yesterday he did not like the idea of felons accessing databases with sensitive law enforcement information even if it was in line with AOC policy.

"I don't like convicted felons making decisions on custody issues. It doesn't sound right. If they want to hire convicted felons, put them somewhere else, but don't let them help make decisions about setting bond," Larson said.

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